Working with cattle: investigating zoonotic TB

21-10 | |
Researchers are asking people to take a blood test and complete a short questionnaire. They are particularly keen for people working with cattle in the South West, such as farmers, vets, TB testers and milkers. Photo: Henk Riswick
Researchers are asking people to take a blood test and complete a short questionnaire. They are particularly keen for people working with cattle in the South West, such as farmers, vets, TB testers and milkers. Photo: Henk Riswick

Researchers from the University of Bristol are looking for farmers and those working in the ancillary industry who have been in contact with TB-infected cattle to see if they have latent tuberculosis (TB).

Working with the Wellcome Trust and North Bristol NHS Trust, the researchers are asking people to take a blood test and complete a short questionnaire. They are particularly keen for people working with cattle in the South West, such as farmers, vets, TB testers and milkers who have been in contact with herds that have had confirmed bovine tuberculosis cases.

M.bovis on the rise

Although only around 1% of tuberculosis in people is caused by M.bovis, it is on the rise. Since 2010, 361 people in the UK have been diagnosed with tuberculosis due to M.bovis. Working in an agricultural or animal-related occupation is the biggest risk factor for contracting the disease and two-thirds of patients reported consuming unpasteurised milk, but it can also be transmitted via aerosol.

Lead researchers Dr Amy Thomas and Dr Ellen Brooks-Pollock have highlighted that it is important to have a reliable estimate for the number of people who may have the zoonotic form of tuberculosis, stressing that “we assume zTB [zoonotic tuberculosis] prevalence to be low, but it may be underestimated.”

“To do this, our study aims to estimate the prevalence of zTB in South West England and understand the risk factors for the disease, particularly in individuals who are regularly exposed to cattle.”

The project is a Seed Awards in Science funded by the Wellcome Trust and will run until 2023. For more information – Zoo TB | Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences | University of Bristol.

McDougal
Tony McDougal Freelance journalist

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